Lying Men

I remember it was a year ago, well it was a Friday, the Friday the general election results were unfolding on the TV and radio. It was not a good day and it felt bleak the direction voters had pulled the UK towards. While the results of the election were becoming increasingly real I was sat in my studio painting.

A year ago I started the Lying Men series. Although I didn’t know it was series when it started. I created a painting of a man lying down, I then created two more. It grabbed my interest and over the year the work developed and the collection of paintings were shown earlier this year at the Lovely Gallery in Sydenham.

These works came from observations made in the city of London of office workers on their lunch breaks. Workers suited squeeze into ever diminishing patches of grass to grab a bit of non airconditioned air and rest for a few minutes in the midday sun. To kick back and snooze for a quick power nap. Out of context these images look restful, soporific, surreal and dreamlike.

Feel free to read them as you wish but they are undoubtably lying men and I will always remember that they first appeared at the general election.

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Art and Dialogue: A Conversation

 –     You’re a painter aren’t you?

–        Yes

–        Can you do a painting of my dog

–        I don’t know, I’ve never made a painting of a dog before

–        I reckon you could, your work looks good.

–        Thank you, I suppose I could.

–        It’s him (shows her picture of the dog) he’s called Blue, well was Blue, he died some months ago. I’m just getting to terms with it. I loved that dog.

–        He’s a fine looking dog.

–        I didn’t know he was inbred and as a result he developed some problem with his spine. I had to have him euthanised. Tore me apart, still does. I loved that dog. He was a character, used to chew everything up and cause chaos. I miss him. Do you reckon you could do it?

–        Yes I could do a painting of him, I’ll work from the photo, but I’ll remove all the Christmas paraphernalia in the background.

–        And remove his harness; I’d like the painting of him without his harness.

–        Ok send me the picture, I’ll work out a size and cost and we’ll go from there.

–        Ok let me know and I’ll ok it with the missus.

–        Agreed.

Few Weeks Later

–        I’ve got something to show you

–        Oh I nearly forgot, or thought you wouldn’t have it done by now.

(She shows him the painting)

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Blue

–        It’s not dry yet but will be in a couple of weeks, you can take it then, unless you want anything changed.

–      It’s him, its Blue, you’ve captured him, oh I can’t believe you did it, its him, it’s his eyes and nose, it’s so like him. I’m so pleased. I didn’t think you’d do it, not having done a painting of a dog before, I thought it’d be risky asking you but I had a feeling you’d be good.

–        Well I have to admit I was a bit nervous showing you, I was worried he wouldn’t look anything like your dog or you wouldn’t like it.

–        I can’t wait to show the misses, I think I’ll put it in the bedroom.

–        Will she be ok with that?

–        Well she’ll have to. Blue used to sleep on the bed and she had no choice over that.

–        I see.

–        I’ve got two other dogs, could you paint them?

–        Well…yes…I expect so, have you got pictures?

–        Yes, this is Max (showing pictures on his phone) and this is Daisy. Max is a terror, has loads of energy and chews everything up. I have to pay a dog walker to exercise him as he has so much energy. He has to sleep in a cage at or he’ll chew at everything. Spent £50 on toys and they were chewed to pieces in hours. But you wouldn’t know from the pictures.

–        No definitely not.

–        But he’ll never replace Blue, (looks at painting again) I can’t believe how well you’ve done this, I’m made up. I am away on holiday next week but I’ll pick him up on my return.

–        Yes whenever you can.

–        And you’ll do the others

–        Yes send me the pictures and I’ll start them soon.

Few Weeks later

–        Do you drink wine?

–        Yes

–        Oh good, here you go (handing a bottle of wine) open it an hour before to let in breath, although I’d just drink it.

–        Yes I probably will. Thank you. Here’s Blue, all dry, I’ll wrap him up – I hope you still like it.

–        Yes its spot on – I told my Mum about it and she was so keen to see it she wanted to send my cousin round to collect the painting while I was away, but I told her no and to wait as you wouldn’t know who that was.

–        Probably best as I would prefer to give it to you.

–        I think I’ll let my Mum have the painting on her walls as she loved that dog. In fact I’m going there straight after here to hang it. The whole family are going round to hers this evening to see the painting and toast Blue.

–        Oh that’s very touching, how many in your family.

–        Oh its huge, I come from a travellers family so there are loads of us, I’m not sure we’ll all fit in the house but we’ll all go anyway.

–        That sounds like a good get together.

–        Yes it will be.

–        Enjoy.

–        Thank you

Texts later

Thanks for letting me collect Blue painting today, my mum loved it and the rest of the family will turn up later and again thanks

So all my family have now seen Blue painting and were amazed that you got him so perfect. I look forward to your next master class and thanks again.

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Marlene Dumas

I went to see ‘The Image is Burden’ twice at the Tate, I would have liked to have found time to go many more times. I was truly astonished by Dumas skill as a painter. I had seen her black and white ink faces previously but hadn’t had the pleasure to see her paintings up close. They really are very powerful, so emotive and so disturbingly good. I admire her looseness and exactness with the paint. It takes great skill and practice to make a loose scuffed line look so intended.Het kwaad is Banaal

The eyes in ‘Evil in Banal’ are mesmerising. They are astonishingly glassy, the small lines of white perfectly places provide a sense of light reflecting and it’s as if they are still wet and shining in the light. The photograph of the work doesn’t quite capture the ‘glassiness’ but I wanted to share the image here as a reminder of how long I looked at the painting.

Equally the emotion in ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’ is so powerful its as if you can touch the tears rolling down the face and the wetness of the lips. The face is smudged and covered in pain and anguish.

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I was also amused by Dumas ‘Drunken Mermaid’ what a great image, painting and title. It is like she is weighed down by the weight of the paint and the desperation to cling onto the rock while feeling nauseous. It speaks for itself.

Lastly as a reminder of an image I have in my head that is yet to be interpreted into paint. I have included Losing (Her Meaning). Another atmospheric painting layered with meanings and possible interpretations.

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Marlene Dumas has so inspired me.

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Repeat Depictions

It’s going to happen! After some bright ideas, imaginings and many discussions its all systems go. 1st May – 31st July I will be artist in residency with Chris Cooper at Kentish Town Health Centre through the Free Space Gallery based at the Centre. The ball started rolling some years ago on this after a discussion at a show I had curated at the Queen Crescent Surgery. The pace changed but ball didnt stop rolling and here we are.

I work with many artists with mental disabilities who often find it hard to negotiate the complexities of the art world. It is challenging out there at the best of times. Kentish Town Health Centre offer a space annually for an artist to be resident at the James Wigg Practice – why not have an artist working with Action Space, who support the development of artists with learning disabilities in a professional studio environment, be an artist in resident at KTHC? The original idea was for me to mentor a young artist working with Action Space to be the resident artist, but this developed in a collaborative project for the residency.

I will be working with Chris, who is a young and exciting artist who has worked with a number of mediums including painting, sculpture, digital imagery and has received an Achievement Award from the Jack Petchy Foundation for his writing. Chris is Autistic and is challenged by high levels of anxiety.

We do not know what will come out of this collaboration yet. As with many creative endeavours and ideas it is the process that is as enlightening as the product. We plan to use our art as a means of communicating between ourselves and to the visitors and staff of the centre. It will be an intense 3 month and a huge learning curve for us both. It is an exciting opportunity and I am looking forward to having a new and different space to work in with new ideas and materials to experiment with.

You can follow the project at http://repeatdepictions.wordpress.com/ and on twitter @repeatdipiction

Here’s to a full few months.

 

 

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Project 353 & Collaboration

ImageThroughout 2013 my Artist Facilitating and Tutoring work with the Leighton Project Students at Elfrida Rathbone, delivered as part of my work with Action Space, involved the students taking part in a partnership project with the London Transport Museum. This was Project 353 to celebrate 150 years of the London Underground.
For the project the students completed 3 exhibitions. Two of these were in Kentish Town. One was in the summer at Queens Crescent Surgery and another exhibition titled ‘Future Transport’ was in December at Elfrida Rathbone as part of the charity’s 30 years celebrations. The third exhibition was online and included a collaborative piece between students and a sound artist. This can be viewed here.

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It was a successful partnership and some of the work by students will be shown at the Project 353 exhibition ‘Carriage ImageThrough Time’ at the London Transport Museum from 31st January to 6th April 2014.
Images of the students work are shown on this page and images of the project and exhibition can be viewed here.

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It was an interesting and exciting collaboration to be involved with. I enjoyed the visit to the London Transport Depot in Acton and the Transport Museum in Covent Garden and seeing the students make artwork in response to their visit. Delivering the project has raised my awareness of my creative role as an artist facilitator. The project was a collaboration between the London Transport Museum, Action Space, myself, the students, the venues that they showed their work in and also the people that viewed the work. The project spec and some funding came from the London Transport Museum in liaison with Action Space. My role was to put the directives into practice, to encourage students to make work creatively in response to the theme of 150 years of London Transport within the deadlines set, to negotiate spaces for the exhibition of their work, to co-ordinate publicity of the shows and curate the shows.

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As an artist facilitator I frequently question and reflect on the blurred boundaries between myself as the artist and creative director and the participants’ creativity. It is a shared creative process between myself and the students: The students make the work in response to the themes and with the materials I can provide. I have conversations with the students, give practical demonstrations and show images and films to help them find inspiration for their work. To keep the project interesting and creative I also came up with the theme for the final term of ‘Future Transport’ to encourage students to imaginatively think of what transport could be like in 150 years time and to make work in response to their ideas. Although I did not physically make the work I did contribute artistic direction and curation – which is very much becoming an extension of my art practice.

Instead of manipulating materials to create a show I am encouraging people to create work, an event or a show? There are layers of creation – the work that the students make, the exhibitions that are put on, the sharing of practices between organisations and individuals and the ideas generated from this. I appreciate that I am not working in isolation in this creation. None of these events would have happened without the mutual cooperation between all parties involved. It is the collaborative process between individuals and agencies that is exciting and allows an output for the coming together of creative ideas. Without this collaboration and mutual support none of these events would have happened. Artists do not work in isolation and successful collaboration can produce interesting and unexpected results.

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BUSY. Exhausted Self / Unlimited Ability

I havent seen the exhibition Busy. Exhausted Self / Unlimited Ability but I am quoting the transcript from the press release for it below. It is a theme that seems so relevant and one that I hope to return to to digest and reflect on further – when I have time!

“The exhibition BUSY. Exhausted Self / Unlimited Ability at the 21er Haus explores the relationship between work and creativity, discussing tendencies towards permanent efficiency and resulting disease patterns.

Nowadays, life itself is very often determined by the ability to cope with an increasing flood of exigencies. There seems to be an overwhelming need to be flexible, mobile, creative, innovative, autonomous, self-reliant, and proactive. While labour conditions on the whole have taken a turn to the positive—there have never been as many opportunities and possibilities as today—new liberties also have led to self-expenditure in various spheres of life, often resulting in exhaustion, depression, and burnout.

Efficiency and profitability versus pleasure gain and self-development
Life has become faster, and our private and professional lives are thoroughly organized. Time has become a precious, rare and increasingly valuable commodity. Within a system that is governed by efficiency and profitability, standstill is unimaginable or impossible. An optimal use of time and precise time management are the basic instruments for professional success or for a successful life. People define themselves through work, since it helps them in finding self-fulfilment and positioning themselves within the society. Of course work can strengthen people’s individuality, contribute to their personal development, and be enriching as well as enjoyable. In recent years, there has been a strong focus on creative work, as it holds the promise of pleasure gain and individual growth, while being based on flexibility and self-control. The traditional image of labour has given way to a creative image, producing not only a general sense of well-being, but also a host of problems; primarily concerning those who are unable to distinguish between work and leisure time, those who are expected to totally identify with their work. In times of great uncertainty, the opposites of anxiety and security challenge us personally. These tendencies are also reflected in contemporary art, where they are recorded, discussed, and processed visually. This increasingly happens from a personal perspective, since more often than not artists are in the focus of a debate taking on a widening social dimension.

Artists as role models for autonomous one-person corporations
Before the Industrial Revolution and due to alternative life and work styles, there was a tendency towards regarding artists as revolutionary counterparts of entrepreneurs. However, in times defined by flexibility, mobility, creativity, innovation, autonomy, individuality, and self-reliance, the artist has become a kind of ideal. While art used to be the utopian counter-concept of efficiency-oriented and heteronomous labour, we are now witnessing art turning into a model of mobile and autonomous one-person corporations. Artists are seen as role models of a transformed work situation defined by unlimited creativity, smart self-marketing, self-motivated productivity, passionate commitment, and innovative work and life styles. Hence artists are in the focus of an ubiquitous social debate. The exhibition sums up relevant issues which go beyond the sphere of art, and participating artists have made their own roles the content of their works. They observe and analyse the theme of labour in general, addressing aspects ranging from pleasure to overstrain, seeing boredom as a way out, or experimenting with various forms of denial.

Curator
Bettina Steinbrügge

The exhibition is accompanied by interventions and performances conceived by students enrolled in the Master’s Programme in Critical Studies at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts in cooperation with their teachers Diedrich Diederichsen and Constanze Ruhm.

Exhibition catalogue – bibliographic data
Title: BUSY. Exhausted Self / Unlimited Ability
Editors: Agnes Husslein-Arco, Bettina Steinbrügge
Publisher: Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne
Brochure, 20×24 cm, 272 pages
English and German
ISBN 978-3-86335-249-3


I fell in love with Kurt Schwitters

I am very moved and inspired by my visit to see the exhibition at the Tate Britain ‘Schwitters in Britain’. I had seen a couple of pieces of Schwitters work in collections of the years but I hadn’t really engaged with them and had given more attention to his contemporaries that Schwitters had, in my eyes, sat in their shadows. The exhibition at the Tate has changed that and I am grateful for them bringing his work to my attention.kurt_schwitters_ohne_titel_530

On display are a lot of Schwitters collages and assemblages made from found materials and occasional use of paint.  Some of the collages are made up of scraps of travel ticket, sweet wrappers, images and words from the press and other found containers. The larger assemblages are made with found pieces of wood, rubber circles, card and even one with an asbestos mat with signs of heat use on.

From the exhibition I learnt that Schwitters, like many other intellectual and artists, was exiled from Germany in the 1930’s. He left, escaping the Nazi regime and initially moved to Norway but was pushed further West to Britain with the Nazi invasion of Norway. On his arrival to Britain he was required to spend 16 months on the Isle of Man in a detainee camp before he could freely settle here. He died in 1948 just as he was given citizenship.

Despite his uprooting Schwitters continued to make art and was very prolific throughout his exile, even at the detainee camp where it is reported he made over 200 works. He very much used what materials were available to him and included them in his art – his ‘Merz bild’ – the scraps of tickets and everyday materials were as important in his art as the paint. The sense that access to materials was difficult in this period is reflected in his art but Schwitters was not hindered by this and made some excellent artwork with very little means. There is a wonderful piece in the show of the roof tops of the Isle of Man painted on a bit of lino that Schwitters pulled off the floor.

Schwitters_stoneSchwitters draws our attention to the overlooked and makes what would be thrown away worthy of hanging onto a wall. He subverts the hierarchical order through re-presenting and collaging materials together in a harmonious visual order and personal scale.

Schwitters was a very gifted painter he painted portraits and landscapes alongside making his collages and assemblages. This may have been through a commercial need to make an income but shows his adaptability and his love of art and painting. His style of painting with thick brush marks seems to mirror his assemblages as colour and forms balance together.

I left the exhibition feeling inspired that art can and should be made from whatever materials we have access to and in any circumstances. Schwitters preserved in difficult circumstances and as a result produced some inspired and informative pieces. It is the making of it that is more important and the art will then speak for itself.

Perception & The Hyper Real

How we perceive the world is very personal and subjective. It is influenced by so many factors such as our culture, upbringing, our senses, our environment, how we see ourselves in the world, our moods and relationships. Although we share experiences and there are a lot of interconnections between people our individual experiences remain unique to ourselves and therefore our perception is unique, although very closely shared.

One of the biggest and current influences on our perception is the Internet and digital imaging.  We increasingly use the Internet to create a persona. I use it as a space to promote my art and through this promote myself as an artist and open up conversations with similar practitioners through the net. It is a useful tool but I do question its reality.

This morning I have been photographing some of my drawings and paintings for my portfolio, some of which I have uploaded below. I use a reasonable standard digital SLR to do this. I enjoy the process of observing the transformation of the work from a tangible drawing on paper or painting on canvas into a digital image. The work changes. It becomes digitally enhanced. The way the camera captures the light and colour of the work and transforms it into pixels has a hyper real quality. I am seduced by it because it is without much effort that my work becomes digitally enhanced and becomes new work.

I think we are learning to respond to the hyper real, digitally enhanced image. It is attractive, slick and seems flawless. The hand made is removed and it becomes another jpg on the Internet.

Viewing multitudes of jpgs enhances the wow factor of going to a gallery or studio and seeing artwork for real. The contrast between the two experiences is considerable. Most artwork that is hand crafted is more impressive off the net.  It’s hard to gauge a true sense of scale, colour, depth and surface on a flat screen.  The hyper real is slick and part of life but for me can never replace the solid and personal.

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